« PreviousContinue »
hear them, i. e. to promise amendment upon their admonition, take them along with thee, and tell it to the church, that so she may examine the matter, and, upon thy proving his guilt by sufficient witness, may authoritatively admonish him to amend: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican ; i. e. give him over for a desperate sinner, as one that is to be ejected from the communion of the church, and no longer to enjoy the'common benefits of a Christian. For verily I say unto you, that is, to you of the church, before whom this obstinate offender is cited and accused, (for now he speaks no longer in the singular number,) Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven': and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven : i.e. Whomsoever ye shall for just cause eject from the communion of the church into the state of a heathen man and a publican, I will certainly exclude out of heaven, unless he reconcile himself to you by confession and promise of amendment; and if thereupon you pardon him, and receive him into the church's communion, I will most certainly pardon him too, if he perform his promise: for that by binding and loosing upon earth our Saviour means excluding out of the church, and receiving in again, is evident from that parallel passage, Matt. xvi. 19. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven : and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven : where by the keys of the kingdom of heaven is plainly meant the authority of a steward to govern his church or family; for so, Isai. xxii. 21, 22. God promises Eliachim that he would clothe him with the robe of Shebna, who was over the household, ver. 15. i. e. steward of the king's family, and that he would commit Shebna's government into his hand, &c. and then it follows, And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut ; and he shall shut, and none shall open ; that is in short, I will make him the governor of the family, and give him power to admit or exclude what servants he pleases : and accordingly by the keys of the kingdom of heaven must be meant the government of the church; for so keys denote authority to govern, (vide Rev. iii. 7.) and by binding and loosing, the power of shutting out of, or readmitting into it; and therefore in John xx. 23. this binding and loosing is thus expressed, Whose sins ye remit, or loose, shall be remitted, or loosed; whose sins ye retain, or keep bound, shall be retained, or kept bound : for though the words are different from those in St. Matthew, yet they are of the same import and signification; and consequently our Saviour's meaning must be the same here as there, viz. Whose sins you loose from the penalty of exclusion from the church, I also will loose from the penalty of exclusion out of heaven; and whose sins you keep bound, or obliged to that penalty, I also will keep bound, and obliged to this.
This is the spiritual jurisdiction which Christ hath established in his church, to bind or loose, suspend or restore, excommunicate or absolve; and this he hath wholly deposited in the episcopal order: for in all the above-cited places it was only to his apostles that he derived this jurisdiction ; they alone were the stewards to whom he committed the keys
and government of his family; and it was to them alone that he promised that they should sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel; that is, to rule and govern the spiritual Israel, which is the Christian church, even as the phylarce, or chiefs of the tribes, governed the twelve tribes of natural Israel, Matt. xix. 28. And hence in that mystical representation of the church by a city descending from heaven, Rev. xxi. the wall of it is said to have twelve foundations, and upon them twelve names of the twelve apostles, ver. 14. and those twelve foundations are compared to twelve precious stones, to denote their power and dignity in the church, ver. 19, 20. and the wall being exactly meted is found to be one hundred and forty-four cubits, that is, twelve times twelve, to denote that these twelve apostles had each of them an equal portion allotted him in the government and administration of the church, ver. 17. This spiritual jurisdiction therefore, of governing the church, and administering the censures of it, being by our Saviour wholly lodged in the apostolate, none can justly claim or pretend to it but such as are of the apostolic order; and accordingly in the apostolic age we find it was always administered either immediately by the apostles themselves, or by the bishops of the several churches to whom they communicated their order: for thus in the church of Corinth it was St. Paul who pronounced the sentence of excommunication against the incestuous person ; I verily, as absent in body, but present in Spirit, have judged, or pronounced sentence,already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath done this deed, i Cor. v. 3. and what he orders them to do. ver. 4, 5. was only to declare and execute his sentence. And 2 Cor. xiii. 2. he threatens them that heretofore had sinned, that, if he came again, he would not spare them : and that by his not sparing them he meant that he would proceed against them with ecclesiastical censure, is evident from verse 1. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established; which are the very words of our Saviour, Matth. xviii. 16. when he instituted the power of censuring: and then, verse 10. he tells them, that he wrote these things being absent, lest being present he should use severity, according to the
power which the Lord had given him to edification, and not to destruction ; by which it is plain he means the power of excommunicating: and 1 Cor. iv. 21. he threatens to come to them with a rod; that is, to chastise them with the censures of the church; and with this rod, as he himself tells us, he chastised Hymenæus and Alexander, two stickling heretics in the church of Ephesus, whom he delivered unto Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme, 1 Tim. i. 20. And as he frequently executed the censures of the church in his own person, so he derived this spiritual jurisdiction to Timothy and Titus, whom he ordained apostles or bishops of the church of Ephesus and Crete: for so he orders Timothy; Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses ; which plainly implies his authority to examine and try the causes even of the elders themselves, when they were accused, and to punish them, if he found them guilty : for so it follows; Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear, 1 Tim. v. 20. So also he exhorts Titus to exercise this his spi
ritual jurisdiction ; A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, Tit. iii. 10. which plainly implies, that he had an authority inherent in him, as he was the apostle or bishop of Crete, to cite, examine, admonish, and censure persons of erroneous principles : and the same authority, it is evident, was inherent in the angels or bishops of the seven churches of Asia. Thus the bishop of Ephesus had authority to try such as said they were apostles, and were not, and to convict them for liars, Rev. ii. 2. and the bishop of Pergamus is blamed for tolerating the sect of the Nicolaitanes in his church, ver. 14, 15. and so also is the bishop of Thyatira, for suffering that woman Jezebel, ver. 20. which plainly implies, that the authority of curbing and correcting those profligate sectaries was inherent in them; else why should they be blamed, any more than others, for not restraining them ? From all which it is evident, that the power of Christian jurisdiction was originally seated in the apostolate; and that throughout the apostolic age it was always exercised by such, and only such, as were admitted into that sovereign order, viz. either by the twelve prime apostles, or by those secondary apostles whom they ordained bishops of particular churches : and accordingly we find in the primitive ages the bishops were the sole administrators of this spiritual jurisdiction, and though ordinarily they administered it with the advice and concurrence of their presbytery, yet this was more than they thought themselves obliged to; for thus St. Cyprian, in the time of his recess, did by his own single authority excommunicate Felicissimus, Augendus, and others of his presbyters, Ep. 38, 39. and when Rogatianus, a bi